In these straitened times we live in, ever since the market crashes of 2008, it’s more important than ever to be getting your charity in front of potential donors. While neighbourhood and street fundraisers, events, door drops, telemarketing and other offline promotions play an irreplaceable role in introducing charities to new supporters, it’s important to have an online presence as well. While there are various ways that you can bring more people to your website, such as paid search and affiliate marketing, SEO is the topic of this post because it involves optimising your own site. Here are some important tips to follow when it comes to SEO for charities.

Content: Web Copy, Images and Resources

It’s a well-worn expression in online marketing that “content is king” but this is just as important for charities as it is for everyone else. Ever since Google’s ‘Panda’ algorithm update in November 2011, which saw sites with low quality content removed from the index, the emphasis on quality content has never been stronger. Try the following:

  • Have a blog or news section on your site and make sure you are publishing new content, ideally a minimum of 350 words, with images if possible, a minimum of once a week. These can be charity updates, news that affects your cause, supporter stories, success stories, thoughts on the wider world. It’s important to publish what is interesting to your supporters.
  • Write really exceptional content for the whole website – not just the blog. Your whole website should be a resource for your visitors that they will want to share. Stand out from competitors by describing donations, appeals and events with a unique tone.
  • Use infographics for appeals and to share success stories. Quality infographics combine design with facts and graphs, so you will need to engage a designer, but they can often capture the imagination and are popular for social sharing.
  • Is there a particular area of interest to your visitors? Ask sites to collaborate with you on collated resources: links, PDFs, expert opinion blog posts, mp3s and videos are all starting points. Not only will you have a resource people want to link to, but the collaborators may link to you to. For example, a cancer charity may want to have videos from fellow cancer patients, resources for children and parents, PDFs on what to expect from treatment and a collection of tips from different websites on coping with cancer on a day-to-day basis.

On-Page SEO for Charities

Once you have planned out, created and uploaded your excellent content, and have a strategy in place for creating it on an on-going basis, it’s important to make sure that this content is actually accessible to search engines, and therefore users.

Unless you have the time available to dedicate to learning on-page SEO, or you have a web developer who also specialises in SEO (which is extremely rare!), I would recommend hiring a professional SEO for this part. They can help make sure that your content focuses on the keywords which your users will be employing and that there aren’t any huge obstacles to your site being picked up by Google, Bing and Yahoo, due to robots.txt, duplicate content or other technical issues. They can also provide training on adding page titles, meta descriptions, headers and copy optimisation to make sure that every time you upload a new page or post, it has the best chance of SEO success!

Link Building: Getting the Word Out About Your Cause

I touched on the importance of links in the section on copy above, but as a simple explanation for the uninitiated:

More links = better website authority & rankings = more visitors to your site

Google (and the other search engines) see a link between one website and another as a vote of trust from that website to the other. You should aim to build a number of links each month, on a regular basis, and get into the habit of asking for one (politely!) whenever you work with someone who owns a website. There are a number of sources for links that are common to all industries: directories, press release sites, web 2.0 sites, social bookmarks, etc. but here are some ideas for charities in particular:

  • Locations where your charity events are hosted
  • Supporter websites – especially if you have regular donors like schools, churches and other community websites
  • News websites: offer quotes or references for news stories that relate to your cause in return for a link. This ties in with any PR taking place
  • Guest blog posts on related websites. You can also offer guest posts on your own blog from related industry experts. This is an excellent way of generating relationships in the wider community – online and offline

Social Promotion: Helping Your Supporters to Spread the Word

As well as looking to promote your content with links from other websites, make sure that the content on your site can ‘promote itself’. Ensure social buttons for the major social channels are set up, so that people can easily share your content. You can also try to grow a social community on your website, by encouraging supporters to contribute by making comments on posts, participating in competitions and sharing their own stories. SEO for charities is at its most successful when it’s supported by popularity in social media.

This is a guest post from Liz at World Vision UK. If you are interested in sponsoring a child or giving charity Christmas gifts, please reach out. You can follow Liz on Twitter at